What Religion is Kevin McCarthy?

Kevin McCarthy (born January 26, 1965) is an American politician serving as House Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives since 2019.

McCarthy has been the U.S. Representative for California’s 23rd congressional district since 2007. He previously served as House Majority Leader from 2014 to 2019.

McCarthy grew up in Bakersfield, California and worked for Congressman Bill Thomas before running for the California State Assembly in 2002. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. As a congressman, McCarthy has been influential in House Republican leadership.

Early Life and Education

Kevin Owen McCarthy was born on January 26, 1965 in Bakersfield, California to Robert and Roberta McCarthy. He is of Irish, German, and Lithuanian descent.

McCarthy grew up in a conservative, working-class family. He attended California State University, Bakersfield and obtained his B.S. in marketing in 1989. During college, McCarthy was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Kevin McCarthy’s Religion

Kevin McCarthy identifies as a Roman Catholic. He is a devout practitioner of the faith and frequently references his religious beliefs in his political ideology and speeches.

Early Catholic Upbringing

McCarthy was born and raised in a Catholic family. His parents, Robert and Roberta, were both practicing Catholics and raised McCarthy and his two sisters in the church.

The McCarthy family attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic church in Bakersfield where Kevin and his sisters received their sacraments. McCarthy attended Catholic school from 1st through 12th grade, first at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School and then Garces Memorial High School.

At Garces, McCarthy was active in campus ministry. This early Catholic upbringing instilled in McCarthy a strong dedication to the Catholic faith.

Ongoing Catholic Practices

As an adult, McCarthy has maintained his Catholic faith and regularly attends mass. He is a parishioner at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Washington D.C.

McCarthy has stated that his Catholicism is an important part of his identity. He turns to his faith as an anchor and for guidance in his personal and political life. Some of McCarthy’s Catholic practices include:

  • Attending Sunday mass and going to confession
  • Observing Lent by giving up certain foods or activities
  • Praying the rosary
  • Participating in Bible studies and faith sharing groups

McCarthy has talked about relying on his faith during difficult times as a source of strength and wisdom. His Catholic beliefs inform his perspective on many policy issues.

Influence on McCarthy’s Political Views

Kevin McCarthy’s Catholic faith has significantly shaped his political views and ideology. His staunch positions on social issues closely align with official Catholic stances. McCarthy also often frames his policy goals in religious terms.

Abortion and Right to Life Issues

Perhaps the biggest influence of McCarthy’s Catholicism is on his strict pro-life stance. The Catholic Church’s strong opposition to abortion has guided McCarthy’s unwavering efforts to limit abortion access.

As a congressman, McCarthy has:

  • Voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks
  • Supported legislation to deny any federal funding to Planned Parenthood
  • Co-sponsored bills for nationwide bans on abortions after 6 weeks

McCarthy argues that protecting the unborn aligns with his Catholic belief in the sanctity of life. He sees efforts to limit abortion access as a moral obligation rooted in his faith.

LGBTQ Rights

The Catholic Church’s official doctrine rejects same-sex marriage and homosexual acts. McCarthy has opposed expansions of LGBTQ rights that conflict with Catholic teachings.

He has:

  • Voted against prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination
  • Opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
  • Argued against federal recognition of same-sex marriage

Critics accuse McCarthy of using his Catholic faith to deny LGBTQ individuals equal rights under the law. But McCarthy contends he is defending traditional religious values.


While the Catholic Church encourages compassion towards immigrants, McCarthy has supported restrictive immigration policies during his time in Congress:

  • Voted to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico
  • Backed efforts to ban federal funding for sanctuary cities
  • Pushed to limit access to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

However, McCarthy has referenced his Catholic faith when advocating for certain reforms to the immigration system. He believes finding a compassionate solution aligns with Christian teachings.

Other Issues

McCarthy’s Catholic background has additionally shaped his views on:

  • Poverty: Cites Catholic social teachings when promoting reduced government welfare programs. Believes church-based charity work is better way to help poor.
  • Death penalty: Persistently supports death penalty despite Catholic Church’s opposition to it. Says protecting society is higher priority.
  • Environment: Catholic beliefs on protecting God’s creation have made McCarthy more moderate on environmental policies compared to other conservatives.

Controversies and Criticisms

Despite his professed Catholic faith, Kevin McCarthy’s political actions and statements have often contradicted the church’s official stances. This has opened McCarthy up to accusations of hypocrisy and using religion for political convenience.

Denied Communion

In June 2022, McCarthy was denied receiving Holy Communion by Rev. Paul O’Donnell during mass at a Catholic church in McCarthy’s hometown of Bakersfield, California. O’Donnell cited McCarthy’s support for keeping abortion legal as grounds for refusing him communion.

The Catholic Church prohibits those who openly oppose church teachings on grave moral issues from participating in communion. McCarthy’s pro-choice view on abortion conflicts with Catholic doctrine.

McCarthy responded by accusing O’Donnell of politicizing the Eucharist. But the incident illustrated criticisms of McCarthy picking and choosing when to let his faith guide his politics.

Inconsistent Position on Refugees

While the Catholic Church urges compassion and support for refugees, McCarthy fluctuated on accepting Middle Eastern refugees during Syria’s civil war based on political calculations.

In 2015, McCarthy opposed admitting any Syrian refugees into the US citing security concerns. But in 2016, McCarthy called for preferential treatment for persecuted Christian refugees after an ISIS genocide. Critics charged McCarthy with hypocrisy for ignoring Catholic teachings on helping refugees.

Allegations of Islamophobia

McCarthy has faced backlash for comments about Muslims that some have labeled Islamophobic. In 2016, McCarthy opposed having Ellison sworn in as a representative using a Quran instead of a Bible. McCarthy also once claimed Islamic extremists had infiltrated the US government.

Critics accused McCarthy of bigotry against Muslims and ignoring Catholic calls for interfaith understanding. McCarthy maintained he was distinguishing radical Islam from moderate Muslims. But many saw religious intolerance in his rhetoric.

Limited Compassion Toward Migrants

Despite the Catholic Church’s pleas for compassionate migration policies, McCarthy has aggressively sought to limit opportunities for migrants to legally enter and remain in the US. His refusal to support pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has led to allegations that he ignores Jesus’ teachings to welcome the stranger.

McCarthy’s Response to Criticisms

When confronted with accusations of hypocrisy and not adhering to Catholic values, McCarthy has provided several defenses rooted in his faith.

Separation of Personal Beliefs and Public Duties

McCarthy argues that as an elected official, he cannot solely govern based on his personal religious convictions. He must create policy that respects all his constituents’ diverse faith backgrounds. McCarthy contends he separates his Catholic views from his duty to represent his district.

Prioritizing Catholic Teachings on Life and Family

McCarthy emphasizes he most closely follows Catholic doctrine on issues of protecting life, like abortion restrictions, and traditional marriage and sexuality. He suggests other social teachings are not binding for Catholic politicians when making policy.

Protecting Religious Liberty

McCarthy also maintains that defending religious liberty for Catholics and other people of faith justifies opposing policies like same-sex marriage. He believes preserving space for religious values in law is an act of tolerance.

McCarthy’s Future Role for Catholicism in Politics

As a probable frontrunner for Speaker of the House after the 2022 midterms, Kevin McCarthy’s Catholicism will likely remain central to his political identity and agenda. Several possibilities exist for McCarthy’s future utilization of his faith.

Unifying Force for GOP

McCarthy could draw upon shared Christian beliefs to build bridges between factions of the Republican party. Emphasizing his Catholic values and network may help McCarthy gain support from moderates wary of religious hyper-partisanship.

Rallying Conservatives Against Perceived Attacks on Religion

However, McCarthy may also double down on rhetoric that stokes culture war battles. Aligning with conservative Catholics against expanding LGBTQ equality and abortion access can solidify McCarthy’s standing with the GOP base.

Reconciling Faith With Pragmatism as Speaker

McCarthy will also have to balance religious motivations with the pragmatic task of managing a potentially unruly Republican majority. As Speaker, McCarthy may soften some hardline stances to secure wins for the GOP and preserve his power.


In conclusion, Kevin McCarthy’s Catholic upbringing and ongoing faith have profoundly impacted his political career. His Catholicism informs his staunch conservativism on issues like abortion and religious liberty.

Yet McCarthy has also faced criticism for contradicting elements of Catholic teaching and seemingly using his religion selectively for political aims. As a possible future Speaker of the House, McCarthy’s faith will continue shaping his leadership and response to controversies over values conflicts between Catholics and the modern secular state.

McCarthy will need to integrate his personal Catholic convictions with the practical task of governing and stabilizing an ideologically divided Republican party.

Summary of McCarthy’s Religion and Influence on Politics

  • Born and raised in Catholic family – Faith instilled at young age
  • Devout belief and practices remain important as adult
  • Strongly opposes abortion rights and LGBTQ equality due to Catholic doctrine
  • But also accused of hypocrisy for opposing some Catholic stances
  • As possible Speaker, faith will continue driving political ideology
  • Will need to balance faith with pragmatic leadership if GOP regains power

Frequently Asked Questions about Kevin McCarthy’s Religion

What religion is Kevin McCarthy?

Kevin McCarthy is Roman Catholic. He was raised Catholic by his parents and attended Catholic schools from 1st through 12th grade. McCarthy remains a practicing Catholic as an adult and frequently references his faith in his political life.

What evidence is there McCarthy is Catholic?

  • McCarthy attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic schools as a child
  • He was active in campus ministry at his Catholic high school
  • McCarthy regularly attends Catholic mass and is a parishioner at a Catholic church in D.C.
  • He has talked extensively about relying on his Catholic faith over the course of his career

How has Catholicism shaped McCarthy’s politics?

McCarthy’s Catholic faith significantly shapes his staunch conservative stances on issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and religious liberty. He grounds his pro-life beliefs and opposition to same-sex marriage in Catholic teachings.

Critics however accuse McCarthy of hypocritically ignoring Catholic values on other issues like immigration and poverty.

What controversies has McCarthy faced related to his Catholicism?

In 2022 McCarthy was denied communion by a priest over his pro-choice views. Critics also highlight his fluctuating stances on refugees and alleged Islamophobia as clashing with Catholic values.

McCarthy argues he must represent all his constituents, not solely abide by Catholic doctrine. But he’s been accused of using religion selectively.

How might McCarthy apply his Catholicism if Republicans take the House?

If McCarthy becomes Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, he may further emphasize his faith to unify Republicans. But he also may need to temper some religious motivations to pragmatically manage a slim majority.

McCarthy will likely continue wielding his Catholicism to ignite culture war battles against Democrats.

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